Elleno and Sir-Caller, captain of the Rockmage and the Petramale respectively were all the hype of the local media. Their recent discovery had solved some mysteries, especially that of the intensity of the solar flares, but their discovery had revealed many more mysteries in the process. Where did this ship come from? What happened to it's crew? And, are they still observing? Another big question was where did the derelict ship come from. If NanoTec were the only humans on the planet, then... Why should there be another human ship, not registered with NanoTec be there? Nobody knows why. Nobody. And that is what the GEV fleet is for and will have to find out.
Saegen stood by his office windows staring out into the endless blue. Sir-Caller and Elleno had been out at sea for nearly a quarter of a native year already and so much news was already coming in. Already two 'alien' wreckages had already been discovered within the given period of time. Sir-Caller had analyzed the material composition of the hull of the wrecks and had sent the data back to NanoTec main base and outpost, Ellenove, named after Elleno for being the first person to plunge head first into the planet's water, set foot and nearly die on the planet's land. It was an honor reserved for him alone.
Saegen walked back to his desk and picked up Sir-Caller's full report. The hull of the alien vessel was a slightly radioactive, highly temperature resistant metal assumed to be armor against energy weapons. It's chemical composition by mole was about 2% Uranium-238, 30% Iridium, 10% Tungsten, 5% Rhodium, 3% Oxygen and the rest was Copper with traces of Iron and Carbon. There was also an unidentified element within the sample that did not match with any spectrometer measurement of any previously known substance or element. Sir-Caller however, was able to extract about 0.5 grams of this unknown element out of the 6 kilogram sample of armor. It took the form of white 'string' or 'fiber'. By estimation, Sir-Caller concluded that this element was about as pliable as steel and would be able to be made into plates like carbon fiber. What was interesting however, was that this substance could withstand any temperature Sir-Caller subjected it to. Well into 10k degrees Kelvin with a Plasma-Vacuum furnace. It was officially named Aestus-343 and affectionately called Neo-Steel or White Steel by the scientists.
Claev burst into Saegen's office. "Hey! Saegen! The scientists did it! We have graphene!"
"Really? Don't pull my leg."
"I swear by my private parts and dignity, I am not joking here. Take a look at this!"
Claev pulled out a mini coffee machine out of his lab coat. It looked greyish-black and by looking at how Claev held it, it was probably very light, less than 400 grams.
"Graphene coffee machine!" Claev proudly announced.
Saegen stepped forwards and grabbed it out of Claev's hands. He resisted slightly but the machine eventually left his hands. It had a smooth texture to it and was indeed very light. In fact, it was lighter than what Saegen had expected. When shaken, Saegen could hear the rattling sounds of planet grown coffee beans and the sloshing of water within the machine.
"Not bad... I am skeptical to call it graphene but..."
With that, Saegen threw the coffee machine down onto the ground with all his might. Claev stared wide eyed at Saegen, ready to scream at him until he noticed the coffee machine recoil off the ground and land at his feet. There was not a single scratch or dent. In fact, it looked just as it did before. Claev picked it up, slowly, wiped the few specks of dust off it and stood it upright on Saegen's desk. Saegen on the other hand observed silently, looking half surprised while doing so. Claev pushed a button on the machine and after 10 seconds and a dull hum, out came a shot of espresso in a foldable paper cup.
"Want one?" Claev timidly asked.
"Take me to the labs." Saegen replied.
Elleno had taken the fleet up north and had already long left the equator. They traveled for about two and a half native months and the fleet was already in the lower to mid temperate zone. Indeed, the planet was huge, diameter five times as long as Earth's and as a result, progress across the oceans was 'slow'.
Sir-Caller sat on the bow of the Petramale, alone and with a cup of cold tea in his hands. Snow began to fall from the skies and the light white powder settled on everything it could land on. A pile of snow already accumulated on Sir-Caller's head and his tea was beginning to freeze. He looked out into the sea. A flat blue surface all around, excluding the occasional small islands (no more than 100 kilometer square). No ice caps though. Probably was not cold enough to freeze the salt water.
Elleno opened a comms link to Sir-Caller.
"Joe, you... gonna come back in?"
"Ok... May I speak to you for a moment?"
"Alright... How's everything over there? Good?"
"Scanners picking up anything?"
"Ok then, but aren't you freezing out there?"
"No sir. Who do you think I am?"
"Right... I nearly forgot."
Elleno poked his head out of the ship's bulkhead and the chilly wind immediately whipped his face and blew his hair. He saw Sir-Caller, still in his scientific RIG, sitting at the ship bow. Elleno went to the aft of his ship and rested his arms on the railing. They were freezing.
"Sir. I think I see something." Sir-Caller suddenly called out.
"What is it? Bearing?"
"10 degrees port."
Elleno ran back into the ship hastily and up into the mast or observatory deck. He grabbed a pair of binoculars from the equipment rack and looked far into the horizon. All he saw was the vast ocean. Sweeping his field of view left and right, he finally spotted the target in question, 9 degrees port instead of 10 as specified by Sir-Caller. Elleno squinted his eyes, observing the unknown contact.
"That's an island you dumbass." Elleno exclaimed exasperatedly.
"Ha! April fools! Sir."
"It is July, stupid..."
Claev raced through Ellenove, the NanoTec colony, with a panting Saegen behind him towards the materials lab. The moment Saegen entered, wheezing and exhausted, Claev was already refiling his graphene coffee machine with more coffee beans and water. He pushed it's button and out came another espresso shot.
"Here Saegen. This one's for you."
Saegen took it immediately and downed it in one gulp.
"Yes Sae... Sir. Here."
One of the scientists walked forward and in her hands, she held a sheet of the greyish-black substance. Saegen took it, spun it around, all while carefully observing it. The sheet had jagged edges but the plate itself was smooth to the touch. It felt like a plate of metal, while being significantly lighter. The scientist began speaking to Saegen.
"Sir, this is our newly created graphene composite. It is made entirely out of Carbon-12 nanoweaves. In small amounts, it tends to coil onto itself, so this is actually a 'sandwich' of epoxy and graphene, to put in layman's terms." Top and bottom layers are pure 100% graphene though. Go ahead. Test it!"
The scientist began to bounce up and down on her toes all the while suppressing her sequels of excitement. Saegen looked at the sheet of graphene again as he began speaking.
"Well, I am gonna borrow this for a sec... Be right back. Claev, wanna come along?"
"You're gonna shoot it aren't you?" Claev nonchalantly replied.
"Damn right I am! You can read me like a book!"
Down by the beaches next to the inflatable habitation, Saegen set up a makeshift target with the graphene composite in the center of it. Claev went up to Saegen's office and brought his 20mm cannon down to the range. It was low tide and the water had receded away from the plateau. Saegen lay on his stomach with the cannon, mounted on a bipod, in front of him. He braced the stock against his right shoulder and aligned the iron sights onto the sheet. It was a small target, being 50 meters away. The wind was blowing and kept changing direction. Saegen stared at the graphene sheet. A little black square against the blue sky and ocean. Saegen put on his ear plugs. It was going to be loud. Holding his breath, he steadied his heart rate and pulled the trigger.
The cannon recoiled fiercely into Saegen's shoulder despite the spring assisted barrel and recoil absorbents. It did not break his shoulders but it caused some aching in his arm. The report was just as loud, the explosion of the propellant and the sonic boom of the projectile echoed throughout the colony, followed by the clang of metal against carbon as the shell made its mark and struck the sheet of graphene, knocking it clear into the air for a solid two seconds before it fell into the sand and made a satisfying 'splat'.
"Woohoo! Did you see that? Eh... Where are you Claev?"
Claev disappeared. Saegen did not see him leave. He just vanished. Looking around, there was nothing but the sand of the beach and the NanoTec colony in the distance.
"Claev?!... Ah well... I guess I will go now..." Saegen mumbled to himself as he walked over to the sheet of graphene and picked it up.
He put the sheet of graphene back onto the target stand to line up for another shot. As he lay down behind his 20mm cannon, he heard footsteps behind him. Saegen turned around and came face to face with Claev. In his left hand was the prototype railgun, NightStalker.
"What? Forgot about me? I went to go get MY gun."
"Oh, er... Hey! Where..."
"You didn't wait for me. How could you. I heard that bang from a mile away!"
"Now move it! My turn! And lend me that bipod."
Claev pushed Saegen aside as he took his place. He replaced Saegen's 20mm cannon with the NightStalker and activated its Shangri-La "Peacekeeper" Fusion Reactors. The railgun began to hum. The scope displayed a "booting up Windows 10.2 OS" message before showing the scope HUD.
"I updated the scope you know." Claev commented.
"It now self-calibrates."
Claev, as he said this shifted into a comfortable position. Staring at the graphene sheet through the blue targeting dot, Claev could see the dot shifting in accordance to wind speed and distance. Humidity and planet rotation were also factored in. Suddenly Claev stood up.
"You know what, shooting like that is gonna be boring. Let me try something... You might want to duck."
Saegen immediately obliged. Claev being Claev, goodness knows what kind of stunt he would pull. Claev picked the NightStalker off the ground and tested its weight one more time. It was somewhat heavy, about five kilograms but it was going to be upgraded with graphene in a day or two, theoretically making it a mere 1.5 kilograms only. Claev grinned and snickered. He was going to enjoy it. With that, he began spinning himself around in a clockwise direction. Fast.
Boom! The railgun fired, flinging it out of Claev's hands and embedding itself into the sand. Claev was knocked over by the recoil and fell flat onto his face. The sound produced was so loud, even with ear plugs Saegen thought he was going to go deaf. The shot looked solid, but to Claev's surprise, he missed.
"How could you miss?!" Saegen sarcastically mocked Claev.
Claev pushed himself up from the ground and wiped the sand off his mouth before replying.
"Well, umm... It moved sir!"
"Hahaha, yeah right."
"I'm serious Saegen! Look!"
The graphene plate was nowhere to be seen. The stand had also toppled over and the sand around Claev in a four meter radius had been blown away in such a way that it looked as though Claev was standing in a bolide impact crater.
Saegen whistled. Amazing piece of technology. Claev collapsed to the ground again, gripping his right shoulder. From prior experience, Saegen could guess extremely accurately what happened to him. He opened a comms link back to the laboratories.
"The graphene plate was great. It stopped a... 20mm cannon shell easily."
"Nice! How about the railgun... wait a minute, where is it?"
"Relax, its here with Claev."
"Ok, phew. Got me worried there for a second. So... how did the graphene fare against that?"
"I am gonna tell you very frankly. Claev missed. And I have no idea where the plate is now."
"Aww, come on! That was my best one too... by the way sir, a report just came in."
"Something just struck a habitat. From the top at an angle of about 87 degrees. It deflated like a balloon! The annoying scientist, Joe's habitat i think. Was it you? I think it might have been a meteorite from the orbital belt."
"Not me. You can bill Claev for that."
As Elleno was about to leave the observatory deck, he saw a shadow streak across the sky. It was brief and out of the blue. Elleno was sure his eyes were not playing tricks on him.
"Did you see that?"
Elleno, upon hearing this immediately ran down to the CIC. Ana was in the engineering sector and Maria was asleep with her head in her arms. Kagaku was the only one around and staring into the scanner interface.
"S-Sir, you might want to see this!" Kagaku exclaimed.
"Something in the sky? An abnormally huge flying thing?"
"Y-Yeah! Something like it."
Elleno looked over Kagaku's shoulders and at the scanners. One contact, extreme range, nearly 500 kilometers away. The large, unknown contact, 'α', was nowhere on the scanners. Kagaku managed to get an image of 'α' through the ship cameras though. It looked like a giant shadow. That was all to it. No distinguishing features, nothing.
"You figure they may be the aliens?"
"I-I hope not..."
Sir-Caller suddenly called using the RIG's comms link.
"Sir, a second unknown contact. You aware?"
"Yeah, that takes priority at the moment. What do suggest. Shall we wait for them or take the initiative?"
"I would kick them into a Lego pit sir."
"Yeah, maybe you in with them."
The second contact was heading straight for the Rockmage and Petramale. Or it was headed in the direction of the giant brief shadow. Elleno shook Maria's shoulders. She lifted her head slightly and stared at Elleno with her menacing blue eyes.
"All hands, we have an unknown contact. Assume hostile. Battle stations everyone!"
The lights within the Rockmage dimmed into a red hue. The lighting would allow the crew to see their station and RIG interface better. The target did not deviate from its course.
"I think we should wait. Maintain current heading." Elleno commanded.
Maria nodded without a word before putting her head down in her arms and falling asleep again.
Elleno sighed. "Looks like we have to play the waiting game."
Saegen stood in the main engineering structure before the graphene fabricator. It was a large machine made out of aluminium, standing about four meters tall and five wide with hoppers for raw carbon input at the top. Many gigantic protruding electromagnetic coils were mounted along the sides of the fabricator and in the center of these coils, were large cylinders, obviously precision centrifuges. These centrifuges were partially made of steel and iron to accurately divert the magnetic fields of the magnets to where they were needed to properly heat the cylinder through induction. There were some tubing attached to the fabricator, connected to silicon pre-heaters, to create the mesh necessary for the carbon to adhere to. It took hours of research, tears, fine tuning and even the blood of some careless scientists who forgot that high temperatures were serious business. The fabricator was, in the eyes of the scientists and engineers, a marvel to behold.
"So this is the result of humanity's best and brightest..." Saegen mumbled aloud in satisfaction as he circled the fabricator.
"Excellent work don't you think?" Claev beamed.
"Indeed. But one question, why, if you were so sure that the coffee machine was made of graphene, were you so afraid when I threw it to the ground?"
"Well Saegen, its because I wasn't"
"I was only told by this scientist here when she was done with it." Claev acknowledged the female scientist standing by his side.
"I see... What's your name young lady?"
She replied with a smile on her face. "My name is Aquila. Named after a constellation in the northern sky."
"That's a good name for someone like you... Eagle." Saegen chuckled as he said this.
Aquila puffed her reddened cheeks slightly. Saegen couldn't help but smile back. She really reminds me of Clanedd... He thought to himself.
Claev interrupted Saegen's thoughts. "Well then, why don't we show Saegen what a fantastic machine we put together."
Aquila nodded as she walked towards the fabricator. Claev on the other hand opened his RIG and began tapping a few buttons. The hoppers began making clanging sounds and the sifting sounds of carbon/coal dust could be heard from the fabricator. Aquila pulled a few levers and buttons on the fabricator, manually operating the machine for accuracy and precision. The fabricator began humming. Coulomb after coulomb of electrical charges raced through the electromagnetic coils which began to glow a dim red. The centrifuges began spinning rapidly. It started slow, and it gradually accelerated to a such a high speed that, the cylinder began shaking and vibrating violently.
"Here's the fun bit Saegen..."
Saegen stared at Claev with large, excited looking eyes.
Saegen's enthusiastic face and expression was immediately replaced with a dark and unimpressed look.
Elleno sat on his chair in apprehension, all the while staring at the scanner interface. Three hours had passed and the unknown vessel was now 101 kilometers away. Sir-Caller called Elleno through RIG comms.
"My SSMs are in range sir."
"OK. I'll tell you when we need them."
Elleno continued to sit in silence. About ten seconds later, Kagaku broke the silence.
"S-Sir, contact, slipping from long range to medium range. Scanning target details now."
The information began materializing on Elleno's interface. Destroyer sized, 60 meters in length. About the same height as the Rockmage-Class corvettes. The ship has no visible weapons on its deck other than simple laser flak systems, similar to the Petramale's Pulse CIWS. Radio waves were also detected coming from the vessel. They were either broadcasting a message, or scanning Elleno's fleet. Most likely the latter. Elleno prepared to open a communication channel.
"This is NNT Rockmage.Flagship of GEV Fleet I. Please identify."
The channel was filled with static. The solar flares were still affecting communications, although to a lesser extent due to the fixing of one ozone hole. Finally, almost unexpectedly, the reply came through.
"This...NTW Blue Whale... keep... distance. You are tre... territory. Change... immediately!"
Elleno was puzzled. Who were these 'people', if at all. And why, would they have ships and weapon systems designed so similarly it seemed as though they were made by the same individual. Elleno spoke through the channel again.
His voice sounds familiar... Elleno thought to himself before continuing, "We are a peaceful exploration fleet. We mean no harm. Are you the lost NanoTec personnel. Repeat, are you the lost NNT personnel?"
The answer came through, with a generous amount of static mixed in with it, shortly after.
"That is irrelevant... Our orders... nobody not afili... to pass. Divert co... or we open fire."
The neutral contact on Elleno's RIG interface turned form yellow to deep red. Contact registered to be hostile. On radar, the contact began to turn 45 degrees to port, most likely to expose all its guns, ready to fire. Elleno tried to respond back, almost desperately.
"I repeat, we are not hostile! We are a peaceful exploration fleet..."
"Then why... carry weapons?"
Elleno was speechless.
"That was... warning. I pray... merciful end... you."
The communications was cut. Elleno sat there wide eyed and dumbfounded. Many thoughts swirled in his head. He tried to collate all his thoughts but was interrupted by Kagaku.
"S-Sir! Sir! Incoming! We are being shelled from a distance!"
Indeed they were. Kagaku reported high speed, supersonic contacts approaching from the enemy vessel. They closed the 100 kilometer gap within minutes and exploded around the Rockmage.The water splashed nearly as high as the observation deck and the shockwave shook the ship with each ripple. Calibration shots.
Sir-Caller, on board the Petramale , had already begun rough calculations.
"Judging from shell explosion force and water displacement...Sir! Hard starboard, we have a second volley incoming soon!"
"Alright, turning!" Dallas yelled through the local comms link.
Sir-Caller took the opportunity to contact Elleno.
"Sir! The enemy is using high-explosives. I cannot determine caliber size but don't get hit. If you do its over, even if you get clipped."
"OK. Noted... Ana! Hard port!"
The Rockmage and Petramale began to branch off in different directions. The turning force was so great that the ships slid sideways and would have thrown their respective crew members off their feet if it were not for the fact they were used to it.
"Sir. My VLS is ready. Fire?"
Elleno shouted back, "Do it!"
A roar of a rocket engine resounded as an anti-ship missile erupted from the Petramale's VLS and into the air. The missile tilted towards the general direction of the enemy and the solid rocket boosters, after accelerating the missile to nearly Mach 2, the boosters were decoupled and the missile's scramjet took over. It released a bright, translucent blue exhaust as it blasted off into the distance.
"Sir. missile away! Eta, 1 minute, 3 seconds."
Elleno acknowledged Sir-Caller. He could see the missile on his interface as well, a little blue dot on the scanners, marked 'ASM-01'. Kagaku shouted again.
"S-Sir! Second volley! Incoming!"
The ship swung to the opposite direction. Elleno gritted his teeth. Maria, still half-asleep, reported.
"Sir, we need to close range. We cannot use our main batteries at this distance."
"Oh! Maria! You're awake. Take control of the ship maneuvering will you? Gimme a moment!"
Maria sighed and nodded.
"I have control."
"Good. Let's go. Closing of range!"
Sir-Caller carefully watched his scanners. All was looking good.
Dimitri was drinking from a bottle of vodka. He burped and reported.
"Second volley hit the water sir... No damage... This is gonna be fun..."
The Petramale shook under the impact again. Sir-Caller ignored both Dimitri and the shaking. The missile was locked and armed, headed straight for the enemy's vessel until it suddenly diverted from it's course and crashed into the water, 20 meters off target before subsequently exploding.
Sir-Caller cursed and swore to himself in German.
"Schei*e! Sir! Watch out. The enemy has ECM."
"Noted!" Elleno replied. "I am moving in to engage at close range. Cover me!"
"Yes sir." Came the reply.
Elleno sat down in his chair and smiled slightly. He looked at Maria and nodded. She stared backed and nodded in response.
"Full speed ahead! Turbines to max!"
"Aye sir!" Ana responded through the comms as the Rockmage surged forwards in a burst of acceleration.
The ship swerved towards port again, barely avoiding the shells that exploded where they would have been mere seconds ago.
"Our adversary is good..." Maria mumbled to herself.
"All the more satisfying when we win right?" Elleno finished Maria's sentence.
She nodded, seemingly in agreement, this time without sighing.
The Rockmage soon receded from the Petramale's visual range. Sir-Caller called out again.
"How much ammunition have we got left sir?"
"19 missiles Jo...Sir!" Aria responded immediately.
"Right! Let's see how you do one-twenty... Fire three ASMs! Have them circle the target!"
The missiles were soon in the air, scramjets burning. Sir-Caller noticed that the enemy had, instead of firing at the closing Rockmage,instead chose to fire at the Petramale.The vessel was already in mid-maneuver and could not change course. The shells were dead on mark. Sir-Caller gritted his teeth and ordered, almost sarcastically.
"Well then sir... Let's see how good these flak systems claim to be... Let's hold a light show! Open all secondary gun ports!"
"Alrighty then! Let the party begin!" Aria enthusiastically yelled back.
With a clang, all the flak ports opened with the guns ready and hot. The flak system was silent, except for the humming of water coolant streaming through the laser projectors.
Shell range five kilometers... Sir-Caller mumbled to himself as he watched the scanners carefully. Four kilometers...
The Rockmage charged towards the enemy ship, closing the distance rapidly. Three ASMs streaked over the ship roaring with greyish-white smoke trailing behind. They carried off into the horizon, the same direction the Rockmage was heading.
"Range 90 kilometers sir." Maria noted. "If we fire the Mid-R at microwave frequency, we can reflect it off the dense ozone layer at about and onto the enemy from here."
"Great idea. Let's put it into action. Photon cannon, 65.7723 degrees up, adjust horizontal axis 1.1 degrees. Microwave frequency?"
"300 GHz, 0.1 cm λ, sir."
"Great... Now, aim carefully. Fire!"
Humming of the water coolant resonated through the CIC as the barrel of the cannon began to glow a dim red.
"G-Good effect on target sir! It's hull temperature is rising!" Kagaku reported
"Keep it going... Ah the gun overheated, initiating cooling sequence."
Elleno clicked his tongue. If only they had better cooling systems...
Sir-Caller began to break out in a cold sweat.
"Shell one kilometer... Impact in 3 seconds... Someone shoot it down!"
Aria immediately assumed manual control and directed all the flak towards the first shell of the volley.
"Two seconds... Brace for impact!"
An extremely loud blast filled the air, echoing through the Petramaleas it nearly capsized. The Petramale'swarning program began to yell.
"*Warning. Fire in engineering sector! Init...*"
"Fire! Fire in the engine room!" Dallas interrupted the program's speech pattern.
"Sir! Status report?" Sir-Caller demanded.
Aria turned and responded in a quick and shrill voice. "I shot them down! One was intercepted and the blast blew up the second! Hell yeah!"
"That was not my question. Damage?!"
"Moderate damage to engines, two of our boilers are leaking water and burning coal power is spilling all over the place. Minor damage to communications relay but they are still operational..."
Aria was interrupted by a panting Dallas.
"Sir! That was close. Engine fire dealt with. Two of our boilers are down. Beginning repairs now."
"Maintain current course... You were saying sir?"
Aria acknowledged Sir-Caller and continued speaking
"Right, damage was mostly due to shrapnel. If only we had more armor..."
Sir-Caller nodded again.
"Now comes our revenge... Missiles?"
"J...Sir, ASMs flying as intended, oh, the one on the left is deviating... Confirmed, ECM is an active sweep system."
The remaining two missiles closed into the enemy ship. The second missile began spinning but did not deviate. It's scramjet began spluttering before it eventually cut out completely. It embedded itself into the enemy ship's mid section in a shower of sparks and a sudden but short screeching of metal. There was however, no explosion.
"Shit! A dud!" Aria screamed.
Sir-Caller remained silent, gritting his teeth. His eyes remained fixated on the last cyan blue dot on his scanners, 'ASM-04'. The contact began to flicker. The ECM had it in it's scope. It sped towards the target, closer and closer. As it did, a smile crept onto Sir-Caller's face.
Elleno jumped from his seat and pumped his fist in the air.
"We got them!"
His crew began to cheer.
"Right on! Take that you! Cyka Blyat!" Ana yelled out from the engineering sector."
Maria sighed and placed her hand on her forehead, while Kagaku tilted her head in confusion.
Ana continued and inquired.
"So... What's the damage eh?"
"Can't tell" Elleno replied. "Seems to be a hit to one of it's main guns on the bow. Still has it's aft cannon though."
"Alright! Let's go finish them off eh? Shall we?"
Elleno acknowledged her.
"Alright then! Maintain speed! Let's go!"
80 kilometers... 70 kilometers, the distance continued to drop. The enemy ship was not firing anymore, at least for the time being. Elleno suspected that all of their crew were on damage control, or they simply only had one gun and misjudged their armaments. While the Rockmage held a constant speed throughout her charge, all the time firing her main batteries, the range began to close even faster than before.
"S-Sir!" Kagaku exclaimed. "T-The enemy is beginning a suicide charge!"
"Yes sir?" Sir-Caller immediately replied.
"How many more missiles can you fire?"
"16 more ASMs sir. But I rather not waste them."
"They have to be made somewhere you know sir."
"Right... Then I shall take the honor of finishing him off then!"
"Be my guest sir."
Elleno smiled, bearing his incisors. "Let's make this quick shall we?"
The girls responded with a resounding 'yes sir!'
Soon enough, after nearly half an hour, the Rockmage closed sufficiently to see the grey exhaust of the enemy ship and black damage smoke towering into the air. At that range, it would be impossible to reflect lasers off the ozone to hit the target as the angle of a beam hitting the ozone would be larger than it's critical angle.
"Distance now 13 kilometers sir, enemy in visual range. Patching camera footage through your RIG now."
"Receiving the data, hold on Maria... Got it!"
Tipping just over the horizon, was a little black dot. That little black dot was the enemy ship, NTW Blue Whale. It had a black smoke trail pluming from a gaping hole its bow, on which a single barreled cannon's tortured remains lay. Small amounts of sparks flew from the broken cabling hanging out of the breach like blood would out of someone's disemboweled entrails.
Upon closer inspection, apparently that section of the enemy ship was storage for high explosive ammunition. They could thank their lucky stars for their engineers had used an inert compound for the shells' warheads which would only explode under certain circumstances. One example of such a substance would be 'Compound-4', used by the old US military up to about 2022 when World War 3 broke out. In short, the shells did not explode when the missile hit and now they are out of HE Ammunition.
"I was right..." Elleno mumbled to himself. "The whole enemy crew was on fire control... Everyone, careful! They still have another gun!"
"Yes sir." Maria replied as she swung the ship to face the enemy at a 20 degree angle to port.
"T-They... Sir! The enemy isn't stopping!" Kagaku shouted.
"Doesn't matter. All power to weapons, sink that SOB!" Elleno ordered, which was closely followed by the rhythmic humming of the laser battery. The laser beam, set at visible light frequency, streaked across the distance between the Rockmage and her opponent reflecting off the dust particles in the air resulting in a blue line linking the two ships together, where the tip of the blue line cut fiercely into the hull of the enemy. Where the beam hit, converted the armor of the enemy into a glowing streak of molten alloys.
The distance closed to boarding range where the two ships were mere hundred or so meters apart. The Rockmage's Photon cannon mercilessly cut up the outer hull of the NTW Blue Whale and had set it ablaze. However, it showed no sign of stopping, with its bow pointed towards the Rockmage.
"Maira! What are you doing!" Elleno shouted, sweat dripping down his forehead. "Evasive maneuvers!"
"Yes sir... We won't make it."
The Rockmage began swinging starboard. It was a maneuverable ship, but not maneuverable enough. The enemy ship was on a collision course.
"Crap... All hands on deck, brace!"
The entire crew of the Rockmage cupped their hands around their ears as the Blue Whale collided with the Rockmage, bow against bow at a 20 degrees angle. And did the enemy ship live up to it's name. The inertia of the impact carried itself through the Rockmage as the ships traded paint and the Elleno and his crew were knocked off their seats and onto the deck by the sheer amount of force. Cracking of structural struts and the grinding sound of metal with metal filled the air. The Blue Whale collided in such a way that one could call it a 'near miss'. It continued parallel alongside the Rockmage as more paint and was exchanged, just until the cannon mounted on the stern of the enemy ship aligned with the Rockmage...
Elleno had no idea what hit them.
A loud blast resounded from the exterior and the ship shook like a canoe of the high seas. Sparks flew from the CIC's roof and all the red lights went out instantly together with some of the less crucial RIG interfaces. The steam turbines could be heard winding down as the high pitched humming of the engines receded into nothing. The ship's warning computer program began speaking.
"*Warning. Major damage to engine sector, compartments 04 to 06 flooding, rerouting power from flywheels... Success!*"
The red lights flickered back on. Kagaku had been knocked out and was lying unconscious on the deck. Maria was kneeling and rubbing her head. Elleno on the other hand, was bleeding from his upper left shoulder and he was sure there were glass shards stuck in his wounds. Ana called immediately through the ship's local comms.
"Hey captain! You OK? What about the rest? They're fine right?"
"Yeah... Nothing serious, the rest are fine but power is out here, the interfaces are down and those that are still up are not accepting commands."
Ana tried to speak again but Elleno interrupted her.
"Listen, you are in engineering right? Go to the bow and find the manual turret control. You can reach it faster than us stuck in the CIC. It would take us too long to get these blast doors open manually. Once you get there, well, you know what to do."
And the comm link was cut.
Ana ran through the engineering sector and almost blew down the door as she ran through it and down the hallway. She noted two huge, gaping hole in the engine room, each one opposite the other. She did not have much time to examine it but she was sure that the dynamo had been shredded by the attack. Door after door, hallway to hallway, Ana arrived at the manual turret control in 20 seconds flat.
The manual turret control. It had three handles, together with their respective dials and needles for 'X', 'Y' and 'Z' axis manipulation. There was also the periscope, analog range finder and targeting device. Not to forget the big red button on the center of the machine, obviously to fire the weapon. The button was lit up by LEDs under it, signifying the cannon was cooled and ready to fire. Ana sat down on the only chair in the little, cramped room. It was a little cluttered for a woman of Ana's stature but she could manage, somehow.
The Rockmage had already listed 3 degrees to starboard due to flooding and the photon cannon was at an awkward angle. The enemy ship was already drifting away, still on fire and with it's cannon still aimed at the Rockmage.
They are still reloading... Ana thought to herself as she quickly turned the handles of the turret all the while staring into the periscope. The handles were surprisingly easy to manage, so Ana did not have much trouble aligning the cannon with the enemy ship, which was dead in the water, it's scorched port side exposed.
There was not much time left. At that rate, the NTW Blue Whale and the NNT Rockmage would drift in such a way that the Photon cannon would exceed it's angle of gimbal and would not be able to hit them, whereas they could still them.
"Now, what am I supposed to hit eh..." Ana mumbled to herself. "He said I would know... Hmm... Ah!"
That was when she saw the 'dud' missile embedded in the side of the Blue Whale. Her mouth formed into the shape of a grin.
"Now I know." Ana said out loud as she aligned the Photon cannon to the unexploded missile and depressed the red button.
Nobody could have missed the explosion that followed. In a pillar of fire and a with a violent sound and gust of wind, the entire command deck of the enemy ship was sent flying nearly 50 meters into the air along with her crew. The sea water surrounding the detonation point was displaced, forming snowy white foam in its wake. The backbone of the Blue Whalearched downwards as it's spine cracked under the pressure and the remaining shells within the magazines of the ship spilled out like blood and into the water before sinking.
The Petramale could be seen sailing up from behind just at the edge of the horizon. Elleno's half destroyed interface began buzzing as Sir-Caller attempted to contact him. The distance was not far, so the communications network remained stable. At least for the time being.
"Woah! I saw that man! That wa..." A female's voice blared through the comms.
"Go away sir. I am trying to contact him."
"Right..." Sir-Caller cleared his throat. "Good job sir."
Elleno had already dusted off his sleeves and returned to his seat. Kagaku had been given first aid and Maria was told to lie down until her head got better. Elleno proudly replied.
"No problem. All in a day's work."
"So sir, should I assume you get your face blown in like that on an average day."
"You just had to ruin it didn't you?"
Sir-Caller snickered a little before replying.
"Yes sir... By the way, how is your ship? Is everything OK?"
"Well does it look OK?" Elleno sarcastically remarked.
"No sir. It looks like your face."
Elleno sighed. Sir-Caller continued.
"Well then, let's call for reinforcements... I mean supplies. You can thank your creator that your ship had no armor. Later."
Sir-Caller cut the comm link.
Elleno heaved a sigh of relief. Glad it was over. He thought. Ana called Elleno through the local comms.
"Captain, I've investigated the damaged site. It is a bore hole. The shell went straight through! I mean..."
Maria interrupted Ana while still lying down.
"You mean over-penetration."
"Yeah! That's right!"
Elleno fell back on his chair's back rest.
"Any more flooding?"
"Nay captain. Bulkheads sealed."
At the same time, the Petramale had already sailed over to the sinking enemy ship. Sir-Caller stood on the deck looking over the railings.
"Aim carefully sir... Fire!"
A heavy duty harpoon sped out from somewhere within the Petramaleand into the sinking ship. It embedded itself into the torn up hull of the bow of the ship and prevented it from sinking any further. Sir-Caller immediately contacted Elleno after the harpoon had hit.
"Sir. It's time to go on another expedition!"
"But I need a break! How would you like to get shot in the ass and have to run a marathon after that?!"
"Stop exaggerating sir..."
"That's not the point! Have you phoned for supplies yet?"
"Yeah I have. Sir says he is on his way already. Eta 5 minutes."
"Which one? Is it Black... I mean Kuro?"
"I think so sir."
"Well that explains his prompt arrival."
"You know sir... That may well be him over there..."
By then, Elleno had opened the CIC blast doors just enough to squeeze through and run up to the observatory deck. He picked up his pair of binoculars and stared at the horizon.
"Joe, where is he?"
"Over there sir."
"Where's over there?!"
"There. 30 degrees respect to stern."
Elleno ran to the opposite end of the observatory deck and looked up into the sky. There was a bright spot in the sky, a reflection of light. Around it was what seemed to be a cone of white 'mist'. Elleno put down his binoculars. It really was Kuro. Nobody else flew like that.
Elleno immediately contacted the crazy pilot.
"Contact, are you our..."
"Of course I am!" Kuro interrupted him. "Why do you think I am flying so fast?"
"Is that a new plane? I've never seen it before sir" Sir-Caller inquired.
"Yeah it is... Bombs away!" Kuro unlatched the cargo he somehow strapped to the tiny fuselage of the plane. The whole 10-20 tonnes of cargo came splashing down into the ocean at the speed of sound. A loud sickening crack could be heard as the crate touched the water, even through the intercom.
"Oh geez..." Kuro sighed. "I hope that was the boxes."
The wooden boxes, a total of seven of them, skipped across the ocean surface and eventually came to a stop on board the Rockmage,apparently all busted and nearly falling to pieces. Elleno pulled one of the boxes' broken flaps off and within it, was part of a replacement boiler made of a greyish-black material that felt quite smooth.
"Is this the... Graphene that Saegen had been talking about?" Elleno inquired.
"I think so..." Kuro answered immediately. "Is it broken?"
"Then it should be. It is indestructible ya know?" Kuro replied. "This new plane, the F16X, has its engine made of that stuff. Injects fuel like nobody's business."
"So that's how you got here so fast..." Elleno murmured.
"Yup, well gotta go now! Catch you guys in a bit... Oh yeah one more thing. That Claev dude and his cronies? Yeah, he named this planet 'Sirrea'."
'Sirrea', not a bad name Sir-Caller and Elleno thought. It was a name that sounded as if it would survive an entire alien attack, or maybe even an entire galaxy blowing up before them. Only time would tell...
As Kuro banked the plane a full 360 degrees back the way he came, Sir-Caller asked him one more question.
"By the way sir..."
"Spit it out."
"Did you happen to see a giant black shadow across the sky an hour or two ago?"
"Shadow? What are you talking about? Been raiding that Russian guy's stash?"
Dimitri began to shout and swear in Russian. Sir-Caller ignored him.
"No sir, I am dead serious. You saw it right sir?" Sir-Caller was referring to Elleno.
"What me? What are you talking about? There was no shadow. I just remember seeing the enemy ship and calling for battle stations. Right guys?" Elleno asked his crew. They nodded in unison.
"Yeah Joe, you must be going crazy. Go and sleep... 'Sir'" Kuro mockingly said before eventually flying off into the setting sun, beyond comms range.
"Go to sleep Joe. I'll wake you up when the time comes." Elleno said. "Ace, you ready?"
"Yeah El...Sir. As ready as you are!"
"OK, good. Let's go investigate the wreck shall we?"
"Yup! Lets go!" She said in her usual enthusiastic voice before cutting communications.
Sir-Caller sighed and shrugged his shoulders. He couldn't have been seeing things could he? He thought to himself as he walked back to his quarters and climbed into his cryo chamber before subsequently putting himself to sleep again.
In scuba exploration vests, Elleno and Aria surveyed the wreck. The water was cold. Very cold. Elleno entered through the giant hull breach on the side and was immediately greeted with the sight of two severely mutilated human corpses, either blasted to pieces or having their bodies burnt so badly they were unrecognizable as humans. Again, the questions flowed through Elleno's head. Where were these people from? And what were they doing on this planet?
Elleno made a beeline towards the CIC while Aria went to explore the rest of the ship. Elleno maneuvered himself around the broken, flooded hallways of the ship before reaching the blast door of the CIC. The door was already half open, just large enough for Elleno to squeeze through. Inside, was two corpses, one was missing his arm and half of his face, the other was missing a leg. Elleno immediately recognized the broken face before him.
"What the hell..."
Elleno's old friend on board SkyLab2, Security Officer of Sector 4. Why was he here? Elleno had no words to express himself. Sir-Caller suddenly contacted him through the RIG network apparently he had already woken up.
"Sir... Something wrong? Your heart rate just increased."
"Yeah... Something very wrong. Patching feed through now."
"I see... Get back here. Grab whatever you can and get back here."
Elleno cut the link. He turned towards his friend's body, pulled his pistol out of his pocket and closed his eyes.
"Anapáfsou en eirín. Goodbye old friend."
Elleno grabbed the black box from under the captain's chair, turned and left.
Elleno climbed onto the Petramale, with Aria trailing behind. He pulled her back onto the deck and he nearly collapsed into a pile on the ship deck. The icy cold winds blasted Elleno's sides and small ice crystals began forming on his sleeves. Sir-Caller walked towards the freezing Elleno and Aria.
"Sir, what did you find?"
"This black box. The kind of thing found in ancient Earth airliners. Ace got some parts from the sweep ECM device."
"Good work sirs. Now, I have a suspicion... No, I know the people from the TeraNova disaster are still alive, landed somewhere on this planet. Remember the starboard cryo sector? Yes sir. That thing was built like a Nokia Lumia. These islands you see here may well be their landing place. It involves a hell a lot of luck but is possible."
Elleno nodded. His head was spinning from everything he had gone through.
"Sir." Sir-Caller stared at Aria. "You look like a breakthrough for ICY Products. Please go back inside."
Aria shakily stood up, saluted and limped back into the ship.
"So sir, what now?"
"W-Well..." His teeth would not stop chattering. "I suggest t-that we head back to base after we cut through the arctic. We are only three to four months away from the poles and w-we will have enough fuel to make it back. May as well not make this trip a waste."
"OK sir. I will have the others know that. Go back to your 'home' sir." Sir-Caller jokingly said as he pointed to the Petramale'swaste disposal unit. A resounding smack soon followed.
Elleno returned back to his crew quarters. He sat alone on his bed, twirling and the retrieved pistol around his right index finger. It was a modified M2 handgun, made to look like the Russian Makrov, with a wooden grip and chrome barrel, and on that wooden grip was etched a beautiful '4' in cursive. There was a knock on the door.
Kagaku Ota entered the room.
"Umm sir? W-We have finished analyzing the ECM system... There seems to be some strange technological pieces we similar to what we found in the alien wrecks."
"May I see the report?"
Kagaku tapped a few buttons on her RIG and sent the file over.
"OK... Stop standing there looking so nervous. Sit down would you?"
"It's fine. Here." Elleno shifted his desk chair over. Kagaku hesitated for a while before blushing slightly and bowing. She took her seat, all the while fidgeting, even after sitting down.
The same element, Aestus, was present in the device as a heat sink which overclocks the performance of the ECM. A new property of Aestus had been discovered. Its amazing heat conductivity, despite it being white.
Elleno closed the report, leaned back and sighed. Kagaku began to speak.
"S-So... Umm, sorry about your... friend."
Elleno kept silent, all the while holding back his tears.
"I-I share your sorrow sir..."
"It's OK Kaga. Thank's for your concern."
Kagaku swallowed her saliva and nodded in response.
"N-No worries sir."
Elleno got up from his laid back position and stood up.
"The boilers have been repaired and the hull patched?"
"I-I guess... Yes sir. They are."
"Alright. That's great. You know where we are going now right?"
"Yeah. You read my mind."
"W-Well, actually Joe-sir let us know before hand..."
Elleno walked over to the room door and ushered Kagaku to follow.
"You should go get some rest. It is late."
"T-Then what about you sir?"
"I have something to do. You can find me in the CIC if need be."
Kagaku walked forwards to Elleno and grabbed his hand. Her face was flushed and warm.
She held tight for a few seconds, before eventually letting go, all while starring down at the ground.
"N-Nothing sir... I...guess... I will see you later. Bye!" Kagaku quickly said and swiftly walked off, with her hands placed on her chest.
To be Continued.